Stimulus encoding by specific inactivation of cortical neurons

Nat Commun. 2024 Apr 12;15(1):3192. doi: 10.1038/s41467-024-47515-x.


Neuronal ensembles are groups of neurons with correlated activity associated with sensory, motor, and behavioral functions. To explore how ensembles encode information, we investigated responses of visual cortical neurons in awake mice using volumetric two-photon calcium imaging during visual stimulation. We identified neuronal ensembles employing an unsupervised model-free algorithm and, besides neurons activated by the visual stimulus (termed "onsemble"), we also find neurons that are specifically inactivated (termed "offsemble"). Offsemble neurons showed faster calcium decay during stimuli, suggesting selective inhibition. In response to visual stimuli, each ensemble (onsemble+offsemble) exhibited small trial-to-trial variability, high orientation selectivity, and superior predictive accuracy for visual stimulus orientation, surpassing the sum of individual neuron activity. Thus, the combined selective activation and inactivation of cortical neurons enhances visual encoding as an emergent and distributed neural code.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Calcium*
  • Inhibition, Psychological
  • Mice
  • Neurons*
  • Photons


  • Calcium